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Kids to take center stage in community theater

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Kentucky Classic Theatre reviving children’s theater locally

By Calen McKinney

 

Children in the Taylor County community who love to sing, dance and act now have another place to do just that.

Kentucky Classic Theatre, a company producing plays in Campbellsville, Lebanon, Greensburg and Lexington, is reviving children's theater in Taylor County.

Spearheaded by Robin Humphress and G.B. Dixon, the Kentucky Classic Theatre group began about three years ago. Dixon said the company was formed after a production of "The Music Man" in Springfield received great praise.

"The response was good," Dixon, the company's artistic director, said. "That's why we keep going."

And Humphress, the company's executive director, who has many years of experience on the stage, several under the direction of Campbellsville native Russ Mobley, came on board to help bring the theater tradition back to the area.

The company soon produced a play in Lebanon and several people asked why there weren't any in Campbellsville. The following summer, the company produced "The Music Man" for Taylor County residents.

And since then, Dixon said, the company has broadened its reach and even begun children's theater groups in Green and Marion counties. The children's groups have grown in popularity, and now, Dixon said, parents have asked for the one in Taylor County.

"I've been surprised," he said. "I think it's time to open in Campbellsville."

Humphress said she has wanted to create a children's theater group to not only help local children, but also help students studying to be theater teachers.

"So I think it's a win-win for everybody," she said.

The first show to be presented by Campbellsville Youth Theatre will be Disney's "Sleeping Beauty Kids." Auditions are Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. in the fellowship hall at Campbellsville Baptist Church.

Dixon said children and teens ages 5 to 17 are welcome to audition.

All students who participate in auditions will likely be cast, he said. Those who want to audition don't have to prepare, Dixon said, but will be asked to read from a script and sing if they would like a solo role. There are several roles, from a main character to chorus members.

Dixon said those choosing the cast members are looking for vocal range and the ability to present a character to an audience.

"And how they can sell a song," he said.

After the cast is chosen, Dixon said, practices will function as classes where students will learn elements of acting, singing and movement. The actors and actresses will work in small group teams with local professionals and students at Campbellsville University. Classes will meet once a week on Saturday afternoons.

"Sleeping Beauty Kids" will be performed for the Taylor County community on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 7, 8 and 9, in Gheens Recital Hall at CU.

Dixon said he has always liked "Sleeping Beauty," a story that everyone knows.

"It's cute music," he said. "I'm enthralled with the show."

Many Campbellsville residents have participated in Kentucky Classic Theatre's productions, Dixon said, and he hopes that will continue.

"We've had some response so far," he said. "A lot have called."

Humphress said the children's group will not only allow young adults the chance to perform, but also to get instruction from seasoned professionals. Humphress said she was lucky enough to attend professional classes as a child.

"But a lot of parents can't do that," she said. "And I can't for my own children."

And that, she said, is another reason for starting the children's theater group.

Dixon said the Kentucky Classic Theatre group performs "classic" plays that are family-friendly and uplifting.

"It's shows the way the theater used to be," he said. "We want everything we do to be of good character."

And Dixon said he believes participating in theatre can help a child develop his or her character.

"We enjoy working with them and seeing the positive impact," he said.

Some parents, Dixon said, have told him they see their children come out of their shell as they learn how to act.

"They're totally different people now," he said.

Humphress said acting helps children learn how to work as a team and support each other. And research shows that those who participate in the arts perform better academically.

"They gain confidence in themselves," she said.

For some children, Humphress said, they might perform in a play at school, but not have the chance to do theater regularly. The new children's group gives children the chance to be on stage many times. The company hopes to begin offering a children's production in Taylor County each summer and winter.

Dixon said a parent once told him that participating in one of the company's plays helped her son improve his stutter.

While presenting plays can be very expensive and time consuming, Dixon said he and Humphress and many others involved want to produce the best shows possible.

"I don't care that it's not Lexington or New York, we want to try to do that kind of show here," he said.

Humphress said funding for the company's shows comes from tuition that students pay, along with ticket sales. Paying for music and the rights to present a show can easily cost $1,000, she said. Add to that costumes, sets and compensation for teachers and instructors, and costs only get higher.

Humphress said community members pitch in to help offset costs and advertising helps raise money.

And while the theatre company might be focusing on getting the children's theatre group up and running, Dixon said there is also a chance for adults who like to sing and act.

Auditions for roles in the theatre company's upcoming performance of "Guys and Dolls" are set for Saturday at 7 p.m. in Angelic Hall at Centre Square in Lebanon and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Campbellsville Baptist Church.

The performance of "Guys and Dolls" is tentatively set for July 17, 18 and 19 in Campbellsville and July 24, 25 and 26 in Lebanon.

For more information about Kentucky Classic Theatre and Campbellsville Youth Theatre, visit www.classictheatreky.com.